They're twelve, and Catty's still waiting for that slap in the face from puberty that Kendra has been talking to her about since she was seven. It's an incredibly frustrating wait, actually, for someone who has never had the patience to wait for anything.
So when Vanessa calls her early that night and whispers into the phone about the new bras her mom just made her get today, it isn't jealous that Catty feels. It's excitement.
I'm on my way over.
She makes Vanessa model each bra for her, her hands shaping over the small breasts, as if she could somehow transfer that adult energy over to herself instead.
Vanessa's face is bright red and her left hand disappears completely when Catty steps away. "I like the blue one the best. It matches your eyes."
She tries to not think about how pretty Vanessa looks when she blushes or how her own hands tingle like her molecules are pulling apart or how happy she is when Vanessa wears only that blue bra for two weeks in a row.
They're fourteen and having a sleepover. Vanessa's house, of course, Mrs. Cleveland having decided that Catty's isn't a fit place to let her daughter stay at at their ages. Like they're going to have a rave. Like they're going to invite boys over.
"She doesn't realize how popular you are with the boys," Catty laughs. "They don't even look at me."
"That's not true!" Vanessa turns on her side in the bed, propping her head up on her hand, elbow firmly planted in the mattress. "Guys look at you all the time."
"Yeah but they flock around you. If we had a party, they'd come for you over me."
But Vanessa denies it, shaking her head violently, blonde curls whipping around. "No way. I haven't even been kissed yet! Or asked out on a date. I mean, at least I don't think I have been."
She flops onto her back again and sighs loudly. Catty watches her.
"I'd probably freak out too much to be kissed," Vanessa whines. "He'll go in to kiss me, and I'll disappear. Either he'll call me a freak or send me in to the government."
Catty rolls her eyes. "Shut up. You'll kiss someone, and it'll be fine. You worry way too much."
She tries to not think about how it would feel to kiss Vanessa first, before any of the stupid boys they go to school with can. She tells herself it's just to save Vanessa that kind of agony, but it's mostly because she's just selfish.
They're fifteen, and it's the first time that Vanessa is sneaking home from Planet Bang. Her and Catty link arms as they walk, leaning on each other and laughing. She hadn't wanted to go, even though everyone was begging her to. It's a popular place, and she could cement herself as part of the crowd if she did.
But it's Catty that really convinces her, giving her the pleading look she's perfected over the years, like a puppy dog begging for an extra treat. And it's always, always worked on Vanessa.
Even when it's a bad idea.
Even when she's against it.
Because she doesn't want Catty to do things without her, doesn't want Catty to decide that she isn't cool enough or fun enough.
Her hand slides into Catty's on the walk home, securing the two of them together.
They're fifteen, and Vanessa breaks off another hang out with Catty to hang out with Michael instead. Her lips twist into a frown and her stomach sours angrily. She hates the way her jealousy spikes, the way she wants to punch things and the fact that she daydreams about time traveling again to ruin Vanessa's plan so that she can have her all to herself.
It's not fair, Catty knows that. She likes Michael. He's nice. He's good to Vanessa, good for her.
Catty also hates Michael and the way his hands roam over Vanessa's body and the fact that her friend's bra is red now because that's Michael's favorite color. She hates that Vanessa is happy without her while she locks herself up in her room with her canvases and paints.
She hates that she hasn't been kissed and that Vanessa has and it wasn't with her.
But she also gets a thrill out of Vanessa coming over with a peace offering of pizza when Michael calls off their date because he's lost his keys (they're under her pillow for the moment).
They're almost seventeen, and Vanessa is locked in a tower with a crumpled Serena at her side. She's stopped screaming for the moment, and it gives Vanessa time to think. She thinks about Catty and how she's not here with her anymore. She thinks about how Catty would give Serena the strength to keep going, would give them all strength.
She stares up a stone ceiling and wishes that she had told Catty everything that had ever bothered her and everything that she had ever loved.
And she wishes she could have told Catty about how badly she wanted to kiss her to see how it felt because there was nobody in the world who could make her feel as accepted as her best friend did. And she wants to ask Catty if that makes her gay.
But Catty isn't here and there's no chance for such stupid problems anymore.
So instead, she wraps her arms around Serena's fragile shoulders and holds her close and pretends that she has the same kind of strength Catty does.